Tag Comedy/Spoofs

Evolution (2001)

Evolution (2001)

Have a nice end of the world.

Ira Kane and Harry Block are wo science lecturers who investigate reports that a meteorite has fallen in the desert. They quickly discover that the meteorite contains organisms that evolve at an enormous rate, crossing two million years of evolution in a matter of hours. Once the military get wind of the discovery, the site is cordoned off and Kane’s work is taken, preventing him from further studying the evolution of the organisms. Unfortunately for everyone involved, they discover too late that the aliens have advanced to the reptilian stage and begin to burrow up through tunnels to emerge on the surface. With the creatures rapidly evolving and developing human-like abilities, it is up Kane and Block to stop them.

 

Evolution can be best described as Ghostbusters-lite with aliens. Director Ivan Reitman tries so hard to replicate the same lightning-in-a-bottle as he conjured up back in the 80s, almost in lament at not being able to ever get Ghostbusters 3 off the ground. Heck, he tried to repeat the trick with Ghostbusters II – though I think it’s an underrated sequel, it’s still nowhere near the quality of the first one. The way the narrative develops here is rather similar, with lots of similar set pieces and scenarios for the three heroes to deal with, as well as coming up against an uncooperative authority figure and battling a larger-than-life threat in the finale. It’s not very original but what Evolution lacks in these stakes, it makes up for with an easy-going charm which makes it hard to dislike.

Reitman’s films are usually pacey and energetic, and Evolution is no exception. There’s little time wasted on non-essential storytelling, even if a lot of the plot makes little sense when you think about it (like why two college professors like Duchovny and Jones’ characters would continue to be kept in the loop long after it’s been established that this is a serious threat to the survival of life on Earth), and the set pieces flow fairly frequently. However, there’s rarely a memorable set piece that stands out. Reitman throws lots of special effects at the screen to bring all the various aliens to life and the CGI is as good/bad as you’d expect it to be for a film made in 2001. The main characters have plenty of problems to overcome as they encounter the aliens at different stages of their evolution from the fungi right up to the giant amoeba in the finale. It is just that Evolution never really manages to get into its rhythm and it feels like it’s over before it gets going. The action sequences all make sense from the progression of the story, but they never really generate any sort of excitement or tension. Everyone on the screen and behind the camera is trying, it just never clicks together.

The same can be said for the comedy aspects of the film. Unless you like laughing at the sight of a man having an alien insect removed from his rear end (and the younger version of me did find this scene funny), then a lot of the humour here will make you smile, rather than laugh. Evolution is mildly amusing – you’re desperate for it to get funnier and a few scenes and gags really fall flat on their face. The script tries too hard to make the film funny and this isn’t a knock on the writers or the actors involved, it’s just that sometimes a comedy film like this needs a group of actors who can improvise better on the spot during filming. Imagine working with Bill Murray on set and the sort of improvisation he would be capable of. Now compare that to someone like Sean William Scott, perfectly fine for a role like this, but doesn’t really come across as a quick-witted individual who could come up with some genuinely funny and witty dialogue on the spot. Not the first film to be guilty of this – if you’ve seen the trailer, then you’ve probably seen the funniest moments.

David Duchovny, Orlando Jones and William Scott make for an amiable threesome, though they lack a real sense of camaraderie and never quite gel as a trio. Unlike the comic timing and sheer brilliance of the three main leads in Ghostbusters, for all their efforts, both Jones and Duchovny just can’t quite get the same level of hilarity from the story. Perhaps it is because Reitman has pitched the comedy of the film at a lower demographic, hence the inclusion of William Scott who was making waves in a number of teen comedies in the late 90s and early 00s. Jokes about sex, bodily fluids and farting pander to the lowest common denominator (though I’m not suggesting that we don’t all like a good fart joke) and lack the finesse of more sophisticated humour. Funnily enough, it’s Julianne Moore who displays some nice comic timing as the scientist/love interest that makes the biggest impression upon the audience. Dan Aykroyd shows up in an unnecessary cameo role as the governor – how the film could have done with one of his famously fast-talking and intense speeches.

And if you think you’re going to get through Evolution without some sort of nod or reference to The X-Files and Duchovny’s most famous role, then you’re totally wrong.

 

Easy-going summer films such as Evolution have a time and place and it seems that they’re few and far between nowadays in the 2010s, which is a bit of a shame. It’s likeable enough, innocent enough and entertaining enough, just not as enough as you’d like it to be.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Scary Movie (2000)

Scary Movie (2000)

No mercy. No shame. No sequel.

A group of none-too-bright teenagers are stalked by a masked killer who wants them dead because of their involvement in a car accident that happened last Halloween. The kids are also being stalked by a television news reporter determined to get the story. One by one, the young friends are dispatched in a grisly and ridiculous fashion.

 

First watching Scary Movie upon its release around fifteen years ago, I was scathing in my review, criticising its consistent use of crude gags to lampoon the 90s teen horror fad rather than sophisticated spoofing. However, having then sat through progressively worse sequels and a raft of similarly-themed pop-culture parodies like Meet the Spartans, I decided to check it out and see if was as bad as I remembered it. Whether it’s maturity through age or the fact that there doesn’t seem to be too many decent comedies being anymore but I actually liked Scary Movie this time around. Sure it’s still got its fair share of bottom-of-the-barrel toilet jokes but there’s so many jokes I missed first time that you’ll have so much to process by the time it’s finished, it will all depend on what frame of mind you were in. Feeling daft, then the bad taste will rise to the top. Feeling more relaxed and you’ll enjoy the cleverer jokes.

To talk about a plot in a film like Scary Movie is pushing it. It follows the same story as Scream, of a group of friends being tormented by a masked killer, but that’s about where the similarities lie. Basically the story derails and detours so many times, depending on what films the writers wanted to spoof next, so it’s best to sit back and wait for the jokes to fly. Some of the jokes will be dead-on-arrival (basically anything that the irritating Shorty, played by Marlon Wayans, says is just not funny in the slightest), some will depend on your mood and others require more thought. There’s dick jokes, fart jokes, poop jokes and sex jokes to pander to the lowest denominators but then for every one of these, there’s a witty one-liner, a clever in-joke or a subtle dig at another film. It’s the scattergun approach that worked well for Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker with the likes of Airplane! and The Naked Gun though the offensive content has been upped dramatically since those days. I’d be hard-pressed to say that half of the jokes work but the fact that there are hundreds of jokes means that the hit rate is still pretty good by the end of the film.

The bulk of the gags come at the expense of Scream. It’s easy to see why: Craven’s classic teen slasher is ripe for the picking with its infamous masked villain, copious plot twists and genuinely tense moments ready to be laughed at. Ironically, Scream itself was a parody of slasher films, with numerous in-jokes and clichés aimed towards an audience who knew the genre well. As a result, Scary Movie can only take these in-jokes and clichés and do daft things with them rather than clever spoofing. Sometimes, Scary Movie just replays entire scenes out from Scream without doing much with them, making the idea of this being a spoof rather a null point, particularly the copycat finale where it seems that the writers ran out of jokes or another scene in which one character actually says “didn’t this happen in some film?” to which the reply is “Scream.” Yes, we know that you’re spoofing Scream but you don’t need to explicitly tell us.

On the occasion when it does something different, the results are funny. A parody of Scream 2’s murder in the theatre provides plenty of amusement as the victim’s constant chatting through the film leads to the rest of the audience taking matters into their own hands before the killer has chance. The I Know What You Did Last Summer spoof is also decent, if played out a little too long. The pop-culture references are rife throughout the film. If it isn’t getting the likes of Carmen Electra to poke fun of herself, it’s throwing in Matrix gags, parading brand names around like they were part of the sponsorship deals, cementing itself in a specific time with the ‘Wazzup’ Budweiser commercial rip, scenes which echo The Blair Witch Project or bizarre references like The Usual Suspects, Basic Instinct and Amistad (though this bit was pretty funny).

Likeable Anna Faris got her big screen break with this one and she plays the lead female role though, as this is an ensemble piece, she’s not the constant focus. Faris has a natural ability for deadpan and attract empathy from the audience when something goes wrong, making her a lovable oaf much in the fashion that Leslie Nielsen played his Lt. Frank Drebin in The Naked Gun films. Shannon Elizabeth solidified her status as one of the early 00s most searched for actresses with this and American Pie. As stated, Marlon Wayans is one of the most annoying men on the planet and his scenes are painful to sit through. Thankfully his brother Shawn Wayans is much better, playing the part of ‘is-he-or-isn’t-he-gay?’ Ray with some great delivery. Final note must to go to the underrated Kurt Fuller who plays the Sheriff. Fuller is one of those faces you see pop up in all sorts of things from Ghostbusters II to Wayne’s World as snooty businessmen or slimy executives. His timing is perfect in this, especially during the scene in which he’s asking Cindy to look at some photos in the police station – only the photos aren’t of perpetrators but of him in raunchy poses!

 

It’s hard to review a film like Scary Movie because of the sheer content of it. For everyone who hates one set of jokes, there’ll be someone else who hates another set. The bottom line is that you will need to have seen the main films that this spoofs in order to get the most out of it. If you’re prepared to sit through a lot of crude jokes to get really funny material, then you’ll be in for a treat. Likewise, if you feel the subtle humour doesn’t do it for you, there’ll be another bodily fluid joke along in a few minutes. There’s something here for everyone and that’s not exactly a bad thing. Hardly a classic spoof and definitely a product of its time (which makes me feel really old!) but still worth a look.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Ernest Scared Stupid (1991)

Ernest Scared Stupid (1991)

A long time ago, the town of Briarville was terrorised by an evil troll who stole the town’s children and turned them into little wooden carvings. But he was stopped by Ernest P. Worrell and enslaved beneath an oak tree, never to be disturbed again. Years later, Worrell’s bumbling great-grandson unwittingly helps a group of local children build a tree house on that very tree, inadvertently freeing the troll to continue his reign of terror and get revenge upon the Worrell family.

 

I may be lowering the tone of the site somewhat by reviewing this goofy 1991 family comedy-horror – after all, the Ernest films have been widely ridiculed and mocked by critics. For those who don’t know, Ernest P. Worrell was a bumbling, comedy character played by the late Jim Varney. He started off playing the character on commercials and television but then received his own films series based on his popularity in North America (nine films in total, although the joke character wore off significantly over the years). On a similar vein of comedy to Pee-Wee Herman, Ernest was designed to appeal to children and panders to the lowest common denominator of comedy: falling over a lot, acting silly, talking in daft voices, etc. The character was always seen in low paid jobs like janitors or cab drivers and got into disastrous situations which were way over his head. But he was a sincere oaf – a kid in an adult’s body.

The fourth of the slapstick series, Ernest Scared Stupid sees the lovable dim-wit doing his bit in the comedy-horror genre. It’s easily his best performance in the role and the best film in the series. Varney was a classically-trained Shakespearian actor before he donned the cap and assumed the character so you know that everything he hams up, he’s doing so deliberately. One of the trademarks of the role is his ‘multiple personality’ scenes in which he rapidly changes character from Ernest to an assortment of old ladies, Roman generals, lumberjacks, Ottoman warriors and more. It’s interesting to watch the character from an adult perspective, understanding just how well Varney manages to bring to life a variety of different accents and characters, albeit for a few fleeting moments.

Adults will find a few humorous references to other films (notably Ernest being trapped inside a garbage compactor which harks back to Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom). Plus the credits sequence features clips from a whole host of old school shockers like The Brain from Planet Arous and The Killer Shrews. Kids will love the silliness of it all, with Ernest running into doors, being thrown off moving trucks in oil drums and get into old school slapstick moments with cars, dumpsters and such like.

Taking the slapstick out of the equation, Ernest Scared Stupid is actually a great family-friendly horror film which really manages to strike the right spooky atmospheric vibes. As a horror film, it includes many of the usual clichés including the unbelieving townspeople, the resident nut job who knows more than they should (played here with relish by Eartha Kitt) and the array of stock characters who inhabit the town. The plot itself is rather threadbare and is more or less introduced right from the start so the rest of the film is just set piece after set piece. At least pacing of the film is spot on as Ernest lumbers from one predicament to the next, all leading up to a memorable finale as the townspeople attempt to defeat the troll and his children in the woods. The forest locations are superbly dark, fog-drenched, swampy places to add to the ambiance and there’s a terrific score to add to the Halloween spirit.

Big props need to be given to the Chiodo Brothers and make-up department here. The troll looks awesome, all dripping with slime and goo. He’s a nasty piece of work, aggressive and violent enough to pose a threat but not overtly horrifying to frighten the life out of the target audience. Late in the film, his ‘children’ come to life and again the make-up job is superb, giving each new troll a bit of character in the brief moments that they’re on screen.

 

Ernest Scared Stupid is perfect family Halloween foil: light-hearted, good-natured and with just enough chills and spills to entertain young children without scaring them too much (though one or two scenes are pretty tense). Yeah I admit, it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea but if you’ve got kids and its Halloween, put this on and watch them love it (and who knows, you may even find yourself smiling along)

 

 ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 

 

 

Scary Movie 3 (2003)

Scary Movie 3 (2003)

Great trilogies come in threes.

Cindy Campbell is now a reporter investigating reports of crop circles appearing all over the country, whilst also trying to get to the bottom of a mysterious video tape which kills people. Meanwhile the President of the United States has to contend with a possible alien invasion.

 

Where to start? It’s pretty hard to write a review for something like Scary Movie 3. You’re either going to love it or hate it. There’s no middle ground. The only reason you will be here is because of the previous two films. You won’t just hope aboard the franchise mid-way.

Just like the previous two films, your enjoyment of this third Scary Movie film will come solely from a) knowing what the films are that are being spoofed and referenced and b) your tolerance for crude toilet humour. For the first time in this series, the Wayans Brothers who wrote, directed, starred and did who knows what else in the first two films, were nowhere to be found. For the record, I hate them. I feel that their routines aren’t funny, their jokes are terrible and their reliance on cheap homophobic and sexual innuendo is too low brow to laugh at. Don’t get me wrong, I like my cheap gags as much as the next person but I don’t like watching a film full of them. With the Wayan Brothers out of the picture, the film immediately gains extra marks in my book although the end product is a spoof which is just as messy, hit-and-miss and ultimately pointless as the others.

I say spoof like it actually means something at this stage. The first Scary Movie did a pretty decent job of sticking to spoofing slasher films with a few pop-culture gags and other film references thrown in for good measure. The second one resorted to piling on more cheap bodily fluid gags as well as roping in totally irrelevant films to spoof like Charlie’s Angels. For the third time round, the Scary Movie series is taking less pops at horror films and more of the likes of 8 Mile and The Matrix (again) as well as a whole host of ‘flavour of the moment’ pop culture shows such as Pop Idol. The trouble with the regular pop-culture references is that they are already dated despite attempting to be seen as ‘now’ and current.

The plot, if you can call it that, is an amalgamation of about four different films and it’s not worked together very well – it feels more like a showcase collection of smaller self-contained spoofs banded together to pad out the running time. Director David Zucker knows a thing or two about spoofs and parodies (being one of the geniuses behind the likes of Airplane!, The Naked Gun and more) and uses the scattergun approach yet again meaning that loads of jokes and sight gags are thrown around in the hope that some stick and make you laugh. The Wayans’ overt crudeness has been toned down as a result and with it, the quota of jokes has too. But the strength here is that although the jokes fired at the screen are less, the ones that are fired usually hit and at least they are mainly clean so you won’t feel you have cheapened yourself laughing to a bodily fluid gag.

Everyone in the cast is game for a laugh though which helps. Anna Faris returns again as Cindy Campbell and it’s nice to see that she actually has a knack for doing deadpan and doing it pretty well too (not to mention she’s quite cute). Also along for the ride are Leslie Nielsen and Charlie Sheen, two guys who know their fair share of spoofs (Nielsen starring in Airplane! and The Naked Gun and Sheen starring in the almost as good Hot Shots and Hot Shots: Part Deux). Sheen isn’t given as much to do as he should given his comedy pedigree – and this was before he went totally off the rails and became an even bigger celebrity with his porn stars and cocaine antics. Nielsen is funny in spits and spurts but his routine has been stale for years and its almost embarrassing watching him at times, like watching your drunken granddad make a fool of himself after Christmas dinner.

However he does star in one of the highlight moments of the film where the President thinks a room full of handicapped people is actually a front for an alien invasion and proceeds to start punching their lights out to escape. The other highlight being the spoof of The Others, where Charlie Sheen removes the sheet off his daughter’s head to reveal none other than a Michael Jackson look-a-like who wants to bed him and his daughter (I don’t want a lawsuit for saying it is him but it all comes off kind of creepy now). They are about the only two worthwhile moments that I can remember.

 

Scary Movie 3 continues the trend of worsening sequels and then some.  There are occasional laughs to be had but most of the time it’s at the expense of some former stars and seeing how low they will stoop to resurrect their careers. This is not what the first Scary Movie was about and the writers seem to have forgotten that the clue is in the title – this should be a horror spoof series, not every man and the kitchen sink.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth (2000)

Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth (2000)

A news reporter begins to investigate when a group of really dumb teenagers are stalked by a really dumb killer.

 

That’s the best I can do with the plot summary in all honesty. Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth is less of a structured narrative and more of a series of skits spoofing other films. 2000 was the year of the dumb comedy spoof and between this and Scary Movie, I think pretty much every base of Scream has been spoofed.

First of all let me just say that this was written before Scary Movie so any accusations of it being a rip-off are just dumbfounded. It was just that Scary Movie got rushed out quicker and this had to settle for a straight-to-video release. But as far as the two films go, Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth is far superior. This parody is more akin to the Airplane! and The Naked Gun style of doing gags and doesn’t rely on cheap bodily fluid and gay jokes every minute like it’s cruder cinematic counterpart did.

Yes there are some bodily fluid jokes in this (what do you expect, this is the 00s after all) but you probably get more of these jokes in the first twenty minutes of Scary Movie than you do in the whole of this film. Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth doesn’t repeatedly stoop to that cheap levels of gags and is far funnier for it. Well I say far funnier – this is not the film to watch if you need an urgent medicinal lift of laughter. A lot of gags are fired out: some hit, most don’t. There are lots of visual gags going on in the background when the characters are talking and it will take more than one viewing to see them all (ala The Naked Gun). Some highlights include a great rip on MTV’s Pop-Up Video programme (aptly named “Chop-Up Video”) and a throwaway scene with a little ginger-haired kid called “Chucky.” Some gags are just throwaway and over too soon but others come from the ‘Will Ferrell School of Comedy’ when they don’t know when to stop.

See if you can spot the parodies of other films. American Pie, Reservoir Dogs, There’s Something About Mary, Christine, Pulp Fiction, Grease, I Know What You Did Last Summer and of course, Scream are all given the treatment. Unfortunately, the film does delve a little too far back into film history to find stuff to spoof for my liking and this seems to date a lot of the jokes more badly than they deserved to be. After all, these pop culture spoofs are only relevant to their time of release. Who will get the jokes (assuming there are any) in the likes of Scary Movie, Superhero Movie, Meet the Spartans, etc in ten, twenty or thirty years time after the culture that they’re ripping on has changed with time? Some of the pop culture references go over people’s heads now as it is – I’d hate to think what they’d be like in the future.

I’m not really bothered too much about the actors who turn up in these films although Coolio is a definite turn-off in the “Artist Formerly Known as Principal” role. And what the hell happened to Tiffany-Amber Thiessen? She was one of the hottest things on TV and, for a generation of young males like me, watching Saved By The Bell was essential viewing back in the early 90s.

 

If you prefer your humour very low and cheap like the Wayan Brothers or Tom Green (you know who you are people) then you will detest this. If you like your humour more tasteful and more subtle, then Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth is the choice for you. Neither spoof is particularly funny but this one is the more classy offering.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Stan Helsing (2009)

Stan Helsing (2009)

The most feared monsters in cinematic have met their match.

Stan Helsing and his friends are on their way to a Halloween party but they get lost and forced to stop off at the Stormy Nights estate, formerly a film studio and now a gated community. The people who live there tell Stan that he is a descendant of the great monster hunter Abraham Van Helsing and that he is the only one who can free their community from the monsters that have plagued the town for the past decade.

 

And I thought the Scary Movie films were the nadir of horror spoofing! Stan Helsing is probably the least funny spoof I’ve ever watched and that’s saying something when Superhero Movie and Meet the Spartans have graced my DVD player (can’t believe I’m admitting that). Are these films made by idiots for idiots? Or is it a case that the sole target audience for this film were the friends and relatives of the director and writer and only they would get it?

The film has the most flimsy of plots and it runs like a scattergun of spoof scenes, some recent and some older. You get spoofs from Psycho, Pet Semetary, Jeepers Creepers and The Blair Witch Project amongst others. They see fit to throw in a Ring joke even though that’s old news. ‘Michael Jackson’ is even here, dishing out phallic ice-lollies to kids. All of the allegations and fuss about him has been a soft target for spoofs for years but it’s too old to be relevant or funny anymore. Even sending up the likes of Freddy, Michael Myers, Pinhead, etc. has been done time and time again and it’s just not funny anymore, if it ever was to start with. Watching these movie monsters collectively dance to the YMCA at the end of the film, I knew that I had hit the bottom of the barrel and could go no further.

Alas the film isn’t just about spoofs and there’s the usual array of sex, bodily fluid and fart gags that teenagers will laugh their socks at and also plenty of pop culture references are thrown out there for good measure (including President Obama turning up at a karaoke contest but he doesn’t say anything, doesn’t do anything and isn’t the receiving end of a joke – so what’s the point?). You get peeping toms in toilets, gay priests, lesbian Harpies, the list goes on. It’s silly, it’s juvenile and above all, not funny to an adult (well maybe an odd fart still raises a chuckle or two from me). It may not be as crude and offensive as the earlier Scary Movie films but it’s got its fair share of smut. There are a handful of decent scenes, probably the pick of which involves the characters stumbling onto the set of a hardcore gay porno featuring Frankenstein’s monster. But its slim pickings and they are too few and far between.

I really feel for Leslie Nielsen. I do. Here is a man who was a serious actor and starred in the sci-fi classic The Forbidden Planet yet found a niche and major popularity in comedy with his turns in Airplane! and The Naked Gun, two of the funniest films ever made. Since then he’s been stuck in spoofs and comedies, all of which seemingly get worse than the last. If The Naked Gun sequels weren’t as funny as the original, at least they were infinitely more entertaining than Spy Hard, Wrongfully Accused, Dracula: Dead and Loving It and 2001: A Space Travesty. Watching Nielsen try the same old deadpan stick as he did in the early 80s is like watching your granddad embarrass himself in public. The difference is that he’s stuck in drag in this film which makes things even worse especially given his age (eighty-three).

At least the rest is cast is actually pretty good, even if they are lumbered with some horrendous ‘comic’ lines. Steve Howey makes for an amiable reluctant hero. Diora Baird is just smoking hot in her Native Indian outfit and has a pretty decent dead pan delivery. Kenan Thompson (who I will always remember as the fat one out of Kenan and Kel) is actually pretty funny and has some decent moments, most of which involves him responding to comments from others by mumbling things he doesn’t want them to hear (and they sometimes do hear him which adds to the effect). They’re all likeable heroes and they deserve better than the script they’re served up here.

 

Stan Helsing should be the final nail in the coffin of the daft spoofs but it won’t be, that’s for certain. I thought they’d finally spoofed every single horror film in some form in some film but I guess not. Maybe someone will finally realise that these films are actually embarrassing to watch. This film only gets marks for Diora Baird’s glorious rack.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆